By Frederick H. Lowe
Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of a violent rebellion following the shooting death of unarmed black teenager by one of the St. Louis suburb’s cops, has hired an interim police chief, its second in four months since Thomas Jackson, the city’s long-term chief resigned in March.
Andre Anderson, who has been with the Glendale, Arizona, police department for 24 years, took a six-month leave of absence from his job to work in Ferguson. He commanded more than 200 police officers and detectives in the Phoenix suburb.
“I am hoping I’m a candidate for the full-time position,” Anderson said during a news conference. Speaking at the news conference, he spelled out his main objectives, which includes building trust with the town’s residents and instituting community policing.
Anderson, who is African-American, also wants to hire qualified candidates who reflect the suburb’s demographics. Ferguson is a majority African-American suburb, but its police department is overwhelmingly white. Photographs of Ferguson cops usually show only one black officer, a woman.
Things began to change in Ferguson following the shooting death of an unarmed Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson cop, on August 9, 2014. Wilson stopped Brown because he was walking in the middle of the street; a struggle ensued and the 18-year-old Brown was shot to death. His death led to weeks of rebellion.
In August 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated policing in Ferguson and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the suburb and spoke with residents about policing. Last March, the DOJ released a scathing report about Ferguson’s police department that led to then Chief Jackson’s resignation.
A St. Louis grand jury refused to indict the 28-year-old Wilson for Brown’s death. Wilson later resigned from the Ferguson Police Department.
With that backdrop, Anderson said there is a lot of work to be done. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work and I appreciate this opportunity,” he said